Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Five Stages-- Bargaining

This is the fourth in a series of blogs based on Kubler-Ross’s Five Stages of Grief. These, however, are the Five Stages of a Deployment, or extended TDY, or any time our Soldier is “away”.

The time frame for these may vary depending on the spouse and on the individual couple. For example, when we first got married and I had moved halfway across the country, our first CQ involved all five stages because it happened the first day in our new home. Now, I don’t really do many of these until about the third week, or they pass so quickly it’s a mere bad mood.


I am purposefully not doing the stages in the usual order, because even Kubler-Ross says these stages aren’t necessarily complete or chronological. Each person is unique.


I think most military spouses bargain with God during any “away”--  We pretend to ourselves that if we keep the yard nice, keep the kids “okay”, keep busy and involved enough, then our Soldier will come home safe.  He (or she) will come home whole.
It’s a farcical bargain, of course.  Far too many Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines never make it home at all.  Even the simplest training exercise can sometimes result in tragedy.  Deployments, during which it feels like our military member has a great big target on their back, are more fraught with danger and risk.   Whether they come home whole and hearty is not something we have control over.

Which, of course, is the scariest part of any “away”.  We have no control, ultimately.  It comes down to faith in their training, in their awareness of the risk, and their desire to come back to us.

When faith wavers, and we aren’t sure who to turn to, we begin to bargain with ourselves.  We’ll take that class, we’ll make the home improvement, we’ll keep our kids busy just like if our Soldier were home.  Then, of course, he’ll come back to us.  He’ll be proud of us, and he’ll know that we, too, have made sacrifices for our country.

I can’t speak for all military spouses, of course.  I can only speak for myself, really.   When I am mowing, though, or taking care of the cars, or really doing anything around the house that would normally be in “his lane”, the biggest frustration for me comes when I can’t do it as well or as nicely as he does.  I want to do it well, so he has something nice to come home to, and he doesn’t get saddled with fixing whatever it is that I’ve done.

I will admit to another kind of bargaining, as well.  I’m a touch superstitious.  When I used to be on call with my former employer, I wouldn’t say that the phone had been quiet—until my duty period was over.  I don’t talk about a check I’m anticipating until I receive it.  I don’t watch the news while my Soldier is gone, and I really don’t like talking about what he might be doing or experiencing unless there is something that can be done to help him. 

I realize, even as I’m trying to do things “just right” and trying to ignore the news, that my husband’s time is not up to me or up to what I do or don’t do.  I believe in a God who has an ordained plan. I also know that the surest way to have my Soldier happy to be home and proud of me, is to do my part to keep our marriage as strong as possible.  That focus on our marriage will help, I know, when he comes home.  Whether he comes home strong and whole, or hurting in some way, the marriage will need to be strong to withstand the reintegration period that is such an adjustment for all military Families.

That won’t stop me from making one more small bargain.  I won’t post this blog until he’s home this time.  

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